5 Ways to Support Your School

5 Ways to Support Your School
Supporting your school is more important now than ever. Here are five ways to lend a financial hand.

You worked harder than you ever thought you possibly could. Your teachers demanded excellence. Your best. There were many times when you doubted your own ablities to make it. In the end they knew what they were doing. They also knew what you were acapable of. They helped lay that solid foundation for success in later life.

Your coaches refined your game. Showed your tips and tricks which made your more competitive. All without losing sight of good sportmanship and the benefits of regular exercise and physical activity.

But most importantly you graduated from your school with the best thing of all: a network of friends and classmates which will be yours for life.

Now it's time to consider how to give something back to that amazing school which nurtured you. Don't worry that your gift will be too small to matter. Give what you can.

Here are five ways in which you can support your school.

Annual Giving

Annual giving is the foundation of most private schools' fundraising efforts. Typically graduates, or alumni/alumnae as they are called, are encouraged to make a gift every year in support of their school. It's the same concept as the gift you make to support your public radio station or other charity. The gifts range from small amounts to $5,000, $10,000 or more depending on the graduate's financial strength and capabilities. Parents and grandparents are often asked to support the school in this way as well. This has a certain appeal to families which have sent several generations to the same school.

Exactly how do you send money for an annual fund gift? Schools make this part of the process very easy and convenient. You can write a check and mail it back in the annual fund appeal envelope which you will have received. Or you can go online and make a gift. If you prefer to call the school, you can also do that. If you work for a company which has a matching gift program, be sure to let the school know so that your gift is doubled with the matching gift.

Gift of Stocks and Property

The tax codes change from time to time. Depending on your circumstances and the value of your capital gains situation you might want to consider giving appreciated stocks and other financial instruments to your school. Perhaps you own real estate or other tangible property the sale of which would benefit your alma mater. These kind of gifts should be made with the advice and assistance of a professional tax advisor and your attorney. There are many factors to consider.

Now how does it work? Let's say you bought shares in Google in 2004 and want to sell them in 2012. You probably have a large capital gain which is the difference between what you paid for the shares in 2004 and what it's worth today. If you sell the stock and pocket the gain, you will owe the IRS taxes on that gain. However, if you transfer your Google stock to your school, you get a tax deduction for the full value of the appreciated stock but pay no tax. The school can sell the stock when it chooses and realize the gain tax free.

Once again, be sure to consult your financial advisors and seek legal counsel as needed. Tax issues can be complicated. You don't want to make mistakes by doing it on your own.

Legacy Giving

Legacy giving means leaving a portion of your estate to your school. As with the gifts of stocks and property, you need to consult the tax and legal professionals so that it is done correctly. Legacy giving ensures that the support which you gave your school during your lifetime will continue for a long time after your demise. While you may not be famous like a Vanderbilt or a Rockefeller, your name will not be forgotten by your beloved alma mater if that's what you want. Depending on the amount of the bequest and your wishes there are many things which can be done to memorialize your generosity. Read about the impact Elizabeth Beckwith Nilsen's $31 million bequest has had on Chatham Hall. It's a most generous gift with far-reaching positive effects on that fine old girls' school. Perhaps you could do the same for your school.

Should you discuss your intentions with the school? Absolutely. When you do, you can be assured that your wishes will be clearly understood and executed after your demise. The school will work with your legal advisor to craft the language in your Last Will and Testament in order to honor the alma mater which has given you so much.

Scholarship Funds

Giving money specifically for scholarships is something which has become quite popular. Wny? Because schools are trying very hard to attract academically well-qualified students who may not be able to afford a private school education. Your gift to any existing scholarship fund or special gift establishing a scholarship fund will give a significant boost to your school's financial aid program.

Capital Campaigns

From time to time your school will launch a major fund drive or capital campaign. These fund raising efforts have large financial goals and typically span several years. They are also in addition to all the other forms of giving which the school encourages. Capital campaigns will have large goals and specific purposes. For example, The Lawrenceville School's Bicentennial Fund had a goal of $200 million. The money raised will be used for a host of purposes.

In order to reach the goal in a timely manner the school will need your substantial gift. This can take the form of a challenge gift if you are in a financial position to help lead the campaign. For example, you might decide to give $5 million to match $5 million which other donors give. As mentioned before, you need to work closely with the school in order to maximize the effectiveness of your leadership gift. Do you prefer to remain anonymous? Then make that a condition of your munificence.

If you have done well financially and life has been good to you, remember where you got your start. Your alma mater deserves your support now more than ever. The collapse of the financial markets in 2008-2009 took a serious toll on private school endowments as a whole. Some schools indeed felt the pain more than others.

Your generosity will help put your alma mater on a more stable financial footing. Your gift will strengthen the school's ability to withstand future financial shocks from whatever source. Your thoughtfulness will help the school continue to shape and mold young people for years to come. Call your school today and set the wheels in motion.

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